10. David Platt
9. Paul Washer
8. Ligon Duncan
7. David Powlison
6. Albert Mohler
5. Mark Dever and 4. CJ Mahaney
3. Elyse Fitzpatrick
2. Tim Keller
1. John Piper
Note: Click on illustrations to make bigger.
Let me state something right out of the gate: the church has never been in a Dark Age. Christ said, “And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it” (Matthew 16:18). Imagine that. Peter wasn’t anybody—he was an everyday Joe—a blue-collar guy in that culture. Then one day God shows up personally and informs everybody that He would oikodomhsw “be building His church,” or some translators, “I shall be home building”….mou (of me)….the ekklhsian (out-called, not “church” which is not a biblical word) on Peter. You can trust me on this one: Jesus has been home building His out-called, and the construction project has never slowed down or stopped. The building project has always been on schedule and within budget—funded by the Blood. And Christ didn’t choose a John MacArthur Jr. of that day—He chose an ordinary Joe.
Right here, two pillars of the Reformation myth are found wanting. There has never been an out-called Dark Age, and Christ doesn’t primarily use renowned scholars like Martin Luther to get things done. Today’s “Reformed” “church” is built on the foundation of lofty creeds and confessions written by men of fleshly renown. The very name, “Reformed” is fundamentally false—our Lord’s building project has never needed a “reformation”—especially at the hands of murdering mystic despots.
But two days ago, Susan and I had the rare privilege of sitting down with four men who exemplify what Christ is using to build His out-called. We held siege at the restaurant for three hours. These men so encouraged me that it is a wonder that the local police were not called accompanied by men in white attire. They bore four marks of God’s true out-called:
1. Ordinary men.
2. Thinkers who constantly wrestle with understanding.
3. Wholly devoted to truth.
4. Sold-out to the sufficiency of the Scriptures as their only authority.
Somewhere in the world since the day Christ showed up and walked into the everyday lives of twelve men, He has been slowly building His out-called. He has been building with those who possess the same spirit of Noah and is in-fact a fifth mark: they will stand alone if they have to. In the present day neo-Reformed blitzkrieg, it is, and will be two or three families who come out from among them, weeping with sorry, often leaving the only church they have ever known while the door is held open for them by the young, petulant Reformers of our day that despise the sweat and blood that built the work that they have covertly sieged. As our brother Jude said of these brute beasts, they slip in “unawares” (v.4).
Basically, the problem is the same as when Christ showed up to found His out-called. The religion of the day was founded on the authority and institutions of self-important men. People where amazed that Christ didn’t check in with the academics before He launched His ministry, nor quoted the spiritual brainiacs of that day. Likewise, if Christ came today, John MacArthur, Al Mohler, and the insufferable likes of obnoxious men like Steve Lawson and Paul Washer would watch with incredulities as Christ would ignore them and make a b-line for the ghettos—choosing His workers and confidants from among them.
So how should I view an article sent to me by a reader that was written by John MacArthur regarding the Reformation motif of “Justification by faith.” First, as I am presently teaching my family, ALL ideas presented by men, and I believe that MacArthur fits into that category, will entail a litany of propositions that lead to a conclusion. Therefore, let us examine and wrestle with the propositions presented by MacArthur in this article (Justification by Faith: online source: http://goo.gl/xJyFO).
Proposition 1: “The Reformation doctrine of justification by faith is, and has always been, the number one target of the enemy’s attack.”
The “Reformation doctrine”? Excuse me Mr. MacArthur (hereafter, JM), but we get our doctrine from the Bible, not the Reformers, who, as I have noted, are an oxymoron to begin with. In the first sentence of this article, JM sets up an authority between the out-called priests (that’s us) and the word of God. Therefore, his article is predicated on a proposition by men who are not original authors chosen by God— buyers beware. Hence, if we are discerning, JM has raised the propositional ante to a considerable level. By citing the preapproved authors of the Bible, additional consideration could have been avoided.
JM goes on to state that this doctrine, “….provides the foundation of the bridge that reconciles God and man — without that key doctrine, Christianity falls.” This should now incite interpretive questions for the proposition:
1. Could the Reformers have been wrong?
2. Even if they were right, is there a danger in making Reformed epistemology a standard of truth?
3. Is the claim that the church stands or falls on this doctrine establishing Reformation doctrine as a significant authority? And if so, is this wise?
Proposition 2: “Social and political concerns have brought evangelicals and Catholics together in recent years to unite against the forces of secularism. Under the influence of ecumenism, it’s difficult for either group to remember what it was that divided them in the first place.
The pragmatists and ecumenicists are aided in their forgetfulness by new theological movements that redefine justification in more Catholic terms. Under the influence of liberalism and postmodernism, proponents of the New Perspective on Paul, the Emergent Church, and others have so confused and redefined the doctrine of justification that it has become shrouded in darkness once again
The Christian church today is in danger of returning to the Dark Ages. The seeker movement has Christianity turning in its Bibles; the ecumenical movement urges Christians to use worldly means to accomplish temporal ends; and current theological movements look through the lens of philosophy — Enlightenment rationalism and postmodern subjectivism — rather than Scripture. The departure from sola scriptura has led to the departure from sola fide — justification by faith alone.”
JM asserts that the Reformation was a marked contrast between Catholicism and the Reformers. Catholic influence is dragging the “church” back into a “Dark Age.” Regardless of the nomenclature of which he frames this proposition, he begins to articulate the Reformation motif in a way that is traditional, and packaged for fairly easy digestion—if you understand the premise of the motif, and we soon will.
The key here is this part of JM’s proposition: “….and current theological movements look through the lens of philosophy — Enlightenment rationalism and postmodern subjectivism — rather than Scripture.” First, throughout his post, JM uses the term “Reformation doctrine” and “Scripture” interchangeably. Hence, he is proposing that the two are synonymous—he is asking that you accept this proposition as fact. But what we want to focus on here as a gateway of understanding is the word “subjectivism” in his proposition. This is key to understanding my counter proposition:
1. There was no difference in Reformation doctrine and Catholic doctrine.
2. Subjective verses objective is key to understanding the Reformed denial of the new birth that predicates its false gospel.
MacArthur begins to propagate the traditional Reformed dogma of subjective verses objective; that is, as I have previously stated, the crux of their doctrine.
And is that biblical? Is Reformed doctrine biblical doctrine? Is the Reformed gospel the biblical gospel?
The History of the Reformation Motif / Myth
We will take an interlude on the way to our understanding to examine the very significant contemporary contribution to understanding Reformation doctrine by its own proponents and advocates. It is true that Reformation doctrine has experienced times of low recognition followed by “rediscovery,” “resurgence,” and “revival” since the Sixteenth century. The last resurgence began in 1970. It was a rediscovery of authentic Reformed theology that launched the SDA Awakening Movement. Until then, the doctrine had never been framed in a subjective verses objective model of understanding. “Subjectivism” was fingered as the root of all evil verses the, and here it is: objective gospel outside of us. More specifically, “The Centrality of the Objective Gospel Outside of Us.” Hereafter, COGOUS.
This apt method of framing Reformation doctrine was the brainchild of SDA theologian Robert Brinsmead, who was joined by Anglican theologians Geoffrey Paxton and Graeme Goldsworthy, and later by Reformed Baptist Jon Zens. They attributed all contra Reformation beliefs and movements such as the Enlightenment era to “subjectivism.” JM shows his kinship to this contemporary understanding of Reformation theology via his propositions in said article, of which the sender asked, “Does this muddy the waters?” Answer: no, in-fact, it clarifies MacArthur’s participation in the endeavor to save the church from a supposed “Evangelical Dark Age.”
The theological think tank formed by this “core four” was known as the Australian Forum and their theological journal was Present Truth Magazine which was the most publicized theological journal in English speaking countries during the Seventies. They compiled a vast amount of documentation that clearly shows that the Reformation gospel of Luther and Calvin was the Centrality of the Objective Gospel Outside of Us. It contends that if the power of God is infused into the believer, it will enable him/her to, as the truism states, “know enough to be dangerous.”
Because the Reformers saw justification and sanctification as the same thing, they argued that any enablement infused into the believer would automatically contribute to the justification process which they saw as progressive. Please note: this is exactly what JM et al accuse the Catholics of, but as we shall see, they are both guilty of this same thing: the fusion of justification and sanctification together.
Hence, in contemporary lingo, the outcry of the Reformers against Rome was the “infusion of grace into the believer—making sanctification the ground of his/her justification.” In other words, all enablement and spiritual life must remain outside of the believer. All of the power of grace must remain ‘objective” by staying outside of the believer. This Reformed paradigm was brilliantly illustrated by the Australian Four, hereafter A4, by the following pictorial illustration:
Also let me demonstrate by another A4 pictorial that they believed justification was progressive:
I will later explain the application of the two-man chart in this post. I can most certainly read your mind as you look at it: “How in the world does that work in real life?”
We will now further my contra proposition by substantiating some of my sub-propositions. Let’s first establish that one of the elder statesmen of the neo-Reformed movement, John Piper, and a close confidant of JM, agree with the AF’s contemporarily framed assessment of authentic Reformed doctrine, hereafter, ARD. Graeme Goldsworthy, one of the original A4, recently lectured at Southern Seminary on the Reformation. John Piper wrote an article on Goldsworthy’s lecture (Goldsworthy on Why the Reformation Was Necessary: Desiring God blog, June 25, 2009). Piper’s assessment of Goldsworthy’s lecture is a major smoking gun in regard to agreement on ARD:
In it [Goldsworthy’s lecture at Southern] it gave one of the clearest statements of why the Reformation was needed and what the problem was in the way the Roman Catholic church had conceived of the gospel….I would add that this ‘upside down’ gospel has not gone away—neither from Catholicism nor from Protestants….
This meant the reversal of the relationship of sanctification to justification. Infused grace, beginning with baptismal regeneration, internalized the Gospel and made sanctification the basis of justification. This is an upside down Gospel….
When the ground of justification moves from Christ outside of us to the work of Christ inside of us, the gospel (and the human soul) is imperiled. It is an upside down gospel [emphasis Piper’s—not this author].
Note, if you think about it, it is impossible to “reverse” justification and sanctification unless they are on the same plane. Nor can you turn a two-part object upside down unless both parts are attached—making either one the “ground” or otherwise. Hence, a careful observation of Piper’s use of words betrays his subtleness in regard to believing in the fusion of justification and sanctification together. Furthermore, Piper’s beef with Catholicism is not the fusion of justification and sanctification together per se, but rather the infusion of grace into the believer. The AF two-man illustration depicts Piper’s contention to a “T.” Note the exact same issue: Christ within, or Christ without. Just grasp that for now, and put the absurdity of it on the back burner—it will come together for you later.
Basically, if God’s grace/goodness is placed within the believer, he/she becomes enabled enough to become dangerous leading to all of the terrible things inside of the guy looking down. Everything must remain outside of the believer, leading to all of the good things listed on the right side of the chart which are listed outside of him. Don’t miss that. Today’s church owes Robert Brinsmead a tremendous debt of gratitude for publishing this chart.
A Major Key to Understanding: John H. Armstrong and SUBJECTIVISM
Now, let’s take yet another sub interlude to further my contra proposition. The following illustration shows how the AF made the objective/subjective / Christ within / Christ without the major crux of ARD:
A theologian named John H. Armstrong eludes to this exact survey in Present Truth to make a point in an article that he wrote (The Highway blog: Article of the Month; Sola Fide: Does It really Matter?). Armstrong was the general editor of a combined work called The Coming Evangelical Crisis (1996 by Moody Bible Institute) that included the who’s who of the neo-Reformed movement: R. Kent Houghs; John MacArthur; RC Sproul; and heretics Michael S. Horton and Albert Mohler Jr. Armstrong stated the following in the aforementioned article:
The sixteenth-century rediscovery of Paul’s objective message of justification by faith [and sanctification also because justification is supposedly progressive] came upon the religious scene of that time with a force and passion that totally altered the course of human history. It ignited the greatest reformation and revival known since Pentecost.
Now, if the Fathers of the early church, so nearly removed in time from Paul, lost touch with the Pauline message, how much more is this true in succeeding generations? The powerful truth of righteousness by faith needs to be restated plainly, and understood clearly, by every new generation.
In our time we are awash in a “Sea of Subjectivism,” as one magazine put it over twenty years ago. Let me explain. In 1972 a publication known as Present Truth published the results of a survey with a five-point questionnaire which dealt with the most basic issues between the medieval church and the Reformation. Polling showed 95 per cent of the “Jesus People” were decidedly medieval and anti-Reformation in their doctrinal thinking about the gospel. Among church-going Protestants they found ratings nearly as high….
I do not believe that the importance of the doctrine of justification by faith can be overstated. We are once again in desperate need of recovery. Darkness has descended upon the evangelical world in North America and beyond, much as it had upon the established sixteenth-century church.
As JM said in our observation of the article at hand:
….the doctrine of justification….has become shrouded in darkness once again. The Christian church today is in danger of returning to the Dark Ages.
Enlightenment rationalism and postmodern subjectivism — rather than Scripture. The departure from sola scriptura has led to the departure from sola fide — justification by faith alone.
JM, John Piper, Armstrong, Graeme Goldsworthy, and what they call the “Justification by faith” doctrine—all the same camp, and the same belief: The Centrality of the Objective Gospel Outside of Us.
How in the World Does COGOUS Work in Real Life?
As far as how this doctrine functions, there are two camps. But in both camps, the believer remains unchanged and totally depraved. The crux of COGOUS is that sanctification is a total work of God because it finishes justification. The doctrine then frames man’s role in regard to Gnostic ideas. In fact, the very first sentence of the Calvin Institutes is a Gnostic idea. Calvin claims therein that all knowledge is contained in the knowledge of ourselves and knowledge of God. Since we already know that Calvin believed in the total depravity of man, this is the knowledge of good and evil.
Calvin, right out of the gate, states that this is the core of all true wisdom. So, what you begin to see when reading the works of various Reformers of old and new, is the idea that change begins with wisdom, and as we see our own depravity in deeper and deeper ways, and the holiness of God in deeper and deeper ways (which the former facilitates as well), a transformation takes place. Not in us, of course, we are totally depraved—we therefore cannot change—we rather manifest a realm. As it was explained to me by a fairly well known Calvinist, there is a Spirit realm, and a flesh realm (not an old nature within us), and both put pressure on us if we are saved, and we either “yield” to one or the other realms at any given time. But again, we don’t change, we merely manifest a realm. Out of this comes terms like, “Pastor of Spiritual Formation,” and “heart formation,” or “spiritual transformation.” Notice that the “spiritual” is being transformed, not us. I am presently doing research to get a more refined understanding in regard to “what this looks like.” Apparently, an exercise of our own will to obey is creating our own reality instead of “His preordained story.”
A rough sketch follows: all reality points to Christ’s glory, and all reality is wrapped up in the gospel and interpreted by it (the first tenet of New Covenant Theology). All history is “redemptive.” Therefore, all historical events, and events period, are preordained by God to show us wisdom; ie, the knowledge of the good (Christ), and the knowledge of the evil (our own depravity), and both point to God’s glory and “show forth the gospel.” So, all events in life are preordained by God to show us our own depravity, and His holiness. That’s the first way we gain wisdom of ourselves and God, and when we see it, our manifestation results in part of the grand gospel narrative preordained by God.
The second way that we manifest the gospel is through seeing historic events in the Bible that represent the same kind of events that happen in redemptive history. The Bible, in the same way that redemptive history does, gives us wisdom in regard to our own evil and God’s holiness, again resulting in redemptive historical manifestations. If we respond improperly to the redemptive historical event (whether good or bad), we reap “bad fruit” (ie., a bad manifestation) which lends further opportunity for deeper understanding of our own depravity and more glory for God. If we participate properly in the gospel story, we are assured peace and joy regardless of our circumstances (because we are in essence detached from reality in my view). Many Reformed thinkers such as David Powlison and Paul David Tripp call this,
The big picture model is the story of every believer. God invites us to enter into the plot! (Paul D. Tripp: How People Change, p.94).
As I said before, there are two camps: one rejects any kind of work at all by Christ in us, but Tripp is of the other camp that teaches that we remain totally depraved, but Christ does do a work in us, albeit His work in totality. Tripp states that as we gain deeper understanding of our own evil (deep repentance), our hearts are emptied of idols which then results in a filling of Christ resulting in spiritual formations or manifestations (Ibid, p. 28). Others believe that whatever we see in the Bible ( like a circumstance of Christ’s love) is imputed to us as we see it and understand it. Many of Reformed thought call this “such and such ( love or whatever) by proxy.” It is also known as the “active obedience of Christ” or progressive imputation. Following is an illustration of some of these ideas presented here (Ibid, p.100):
But you can also see some of these concepts if you refer back to the two-man chart. The gospel man meditates on “Grace, Justification, Perfection, Security, immortality, Law,” but these things remain outside of him as manifestations of the objective gospel. But the Christ within man has these things inside of him because that is where his focus is (subjective). Following is another Reformed illustration of what we are talking about. Notice that the cross gets bigger—not us. We don’t grow—the cross does. The cross represents grace outside of us; so, the cross is seen as bigger (ie, God is glorified) while we don’t change. These manifestations make God look bigger while not being connected to anything recognized as us being new and improved. Michael Horton refers to this as “preaching the gospel instead of being the gospel.”
MacArthur often conveys ideas that do nothing in regard to separating himself from this absurd mysticism. In writing the Forward to the Gnostic masterpiece, Uneclipsing the Son by former associate Rick Holland, JM states the following:
As believers gaze at the glory of their Lord—looking clearly, enduringly, and deeply into the majesty of His person and work—true sanctification takes place as the Holy Spirit takes that believer whose heart is fixed on Christ and elevates him from one level of glory to the next. This is the ever-increasing reality of progressive sanctification; it happens not because believers wish it or want it or work for it in their own energy, but because the glory of Christ captures their hearts and minds. We are transformed by that glory and we begin to reflect it more and more brightly the more clearly we see it. That’s why the true heart and soul of every pastor’s duty is pointing the flock to Christ, the Great Shepherd.
Let’s now return to the article at hand and address the more relevant parts. In the section entitled, “Back to the Beginning,” JM sates the following:
In the 1500s a fastidious monk, who by his own testimony “hated God,” was studying Paul’s epistle to the Romans. He couldn’t get past the first half of Romans 1:17: “[In the gospel] is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith” (KJV).
One simple, biblical truth changed that monk’s life — and ignited the Protestant Reformation. It was the realization that God’s righteousness could become the sinner’s righteousness — and that could happen through the means of faith alone. Martin Luther found the truth in the same verse he had stumbled over, Romans 1:17: “Therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, the just shall live by faith” (KJV, emphasis added).
JM then fails to mention that Luther believed that this justification passage also applies to sanctification. Then JM sates the following under the next heading, Declared Righteous: What Actually Changes?:
In its theological sense, justification is a forensic, or purely legal, term. It describes what God declares about the believer, not what He does to change the believer. In fact, justification effects no actual change whatsoever in the sinner’s nature or character. Justification is a divine judicial edict. It changes our status only, but it carries ramifications that guarantee other changes will follow. Forensic decrees like this are fairly common in everyday life….
Similarly, when a jury foreman reads the verdict, the defendant is no longer “the accused.” Legally and officially he instantly becomes either guilty or innocent — depending on the verdict. Nothing in his actual nature changes, but if he is found not guilty he will walk out of court a free person in the eyes of the law, fully justified.
In biblical terms, justification is a divine verdict of “not guilty — fully righteous.” It is the reversal of God’s attitude toward the sinner. Whereas He formerly condemned, He now vindicates. Although the sinner once lived under God’s wrath, as a believer he or she is now under God’s blessing.
This all looks to be very solid theologically, but I want you to notice that JM fails to mention that Justification is a finished work. That’s key. And it’s key because of what he states next:
Justification is more than simple pardon; pardon alone would still leave the sinner without merit before God. So when God justifies He imputes divine righteousness to the sinner (Romans 4:22-25). Christ’s own infinite merit thus becomes the ground on which the believer stands before God (Romans 5:19; 1 Corinthians 1:30; Philippians 3:9). So justification elevates the believer to a realm of full acceptance and divine privilege in Jesus Christ.
The problem here is the implication that a pardon is not enough, and that our “standing” must be maintained lest we find ourselves “without merit”…. “before God.” This is problematic because any kind of standard that would maintain merit before God for justification is voided (Romans 7;1-4). There is simply no merit or standard left for a Christian to be judged by in regard to justification.
But the smoking gun that convicts MacArthur in fusing justification and sanctification together in this same article follows under “How Justification and Sanctification Differ.” JM starts out well with this statement:
Justification is distinct from sanctification because in justification God does not make the sinner righteous; He declares that person righteous (Romans 3:28; Galatians 2:16). Notice how justification and sanctification are distinct from one another:
After stating this, JM, evokes the classic neo-Reformed double-speak sleight of hand for fusing justification and sanctification together without appearing to do so:
Those two must be distinguished but can never be separated. God does not justify whom He does not sanctify, and He does not sanctify whom He does not justify. Both are essential elements of salvation.
JM also clearly states that progressive sanctification is part of the same “salvation” process that justification is also a part of ; hence, they supposedly can’t be separated. But the Bible authors only speak of sanctification as salvation in a manner of speaking because there are three sanctifications: positional (1Cor. 6:11), progressive/practical (2 Cor. 7:11, 2 Peter ch. 1), and complete (1 Cor. 6:11[those who are sanctified positionally are glorified as well]), but only one justification that is a onetime legal declaration (Romans 8:30).
Furthermore, JM’s use of the distinct but never separate sleight of hand is the exact same mantra constantly used by many in the neo-Reformed crowd:
Though justification and sanctification cannot be separated they must be distinguished.
~ Ernest Reisinger
It would also stand to reason therefore that MacArthur, like all of the neo-Reformed, would not see any role for the believer in sanctification other than gospel contemplationism. This can be confirmed by reviewing the previous excerpt from Holland’s book.
Classic Reformed Kettles Calling the Pot Black
We now observe a trait by JM that was never true about him before he went over to the dark side—blatant contradictions that assume the utter stupidity of his followers. He follows the neo-Reformed protocol for drawing the line of distinction between the Reformers and Rome in this way:
Roman Catholicism blends its doctrines of sanctification and justification.
So, the two cannot be “separate,” but they can be blended? But what JM states next brings us full circle to what we observed in John Piper’s article on the Goldsworthy lecture at Southern:
Catholic theology views justification as an infusion of grace that makes the sinner righteous. In Catholic theology, then, the ground of justification is something made good within the sinner — not the imputed righteousness of Christ.
Please note JM’s either/or interpretive prism, (a neo-Reformed distinctive) that eliminates the possibility that the believer is empowered by the Spirit internally for something that is separate from justification; namely, kingdom living. Notice that the issue is specifically “something good” inside the believer verses the “imputed righteousness of Christ.” Obviously, JM rejects the idea that it can be both, and whatever it is, it must point back to justification if it is something “good” inside of the believer.
Rome’s motive for fusing the two together is beside the point, both the Reformers and Rome believe the two cannot be separated. Hence, for Rome it was easy: Christ forgives all of your past sins, but now you must do certain things to complete your justification because salvation is linear with both justification and sanctification on the same plane. Likewise, the Reformers believe in the same linear gospel, but pardon it by making everything that needs to be done to complete justification—totally of Christ alone. This requires us to remain totally depraved in the process and utilizes Gnosticism for whatever application can be surmised. Frankly, this is the first time that I have seen writings from JM that totally remove all doubt that he has bought into this doctrine , hook, line, and sinker.
If sanctification is included in justification, the justification is a process, not an event. That makes justification progressive, not complete. Our standing before God is then based on subjective experience, not secured by an objective declaration. Justification can therefore be experienced and then lost. Assurance of salvation in this life becomes practically impossible because security can’t be guaranteed. The ground of justification ultimately is the sinner’s own continuing present virtue, not Christ’s perfect righteousness and His atoning work.
The contradictions here are mindboggling. Again, “If sanctification is included in justification….” Is somehow different from, “… . but can never be separated.” Like all in this camp, JM complains about those who combine the two, while at the same time stating that they cannot be separated.
But perhaps the whole issue should be narrowed down to the most glaring contradiction in all of this. While MacArthur states that justification and sanctification cannot be separated, but are distinct, like all neo-Calvinists, he then complains that Rome “blends” the two. According to the standard New Calvinist MO, the cardinal sin in regard to this blending is “progressive justification.” Note once again the following excerpt in this post by JM:
If sanctification is included in justification, then justification is a process, not an event. That makes justification progressive, not complete.
But MacArthur is a Calvinist, and progressive justification is exactly what John Calvin propagated. Again, they accuse Rome of exactly what they are guilty of themselves. In fact, Calvin entitled chapter 14 of the the third book of the Calvin Institutes, “The Beginning of Justification. In What Sense Progressive.” Calvin then makes the same case throughout the rest of the chapter that all New Calvinists constantly make–that a believer must continually return to justification for their sanctification. Seeing these kinds of blatant neo-Reformed contradictions in his teaching is truly sad to watch.
What is it going to take to overcome this kind of error in the church? Christians who think, and love truth enough to wrestle with it long and hard. That’s going to be a small percentage of Christians as thinking is also not in vogue.
Nevertheless, they are out there—Christ said they would be in increasing numbers as He continues to build His out-called ones.
You have heard of T4G (Together for Gospel Sanctification), and The Gospel Coalition. Now we have G3: Gospel, Grace, Glory. The conference will be held near Atlanta in January of 2013. The conference will feature avowed Calvinists Voddie Baucham, Paul Washer, and Steve Lawson. Baucham has been increasingly more visible among the New Calvinist club. He was all the rage at this year’s, uh, well, what they call the “Shepherds” Conference at John MacArthur’s Grace Community Church. Baucham’s association, along with The Counsel on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood makes the strong connection between the New Calvinists and the Patriarchy movement apparent. More and more, all of the players in the spiritual despot tsunami are networking together to bring the American church under the bondage of Reformed spiritual despotism spawned by their adulated father, John Calvin.
Studying New Calvinism for five years now, my secondary curiosity concerning various abusive groups that I suspected were somehow connected with New Calvinism are coming more into focus. Their gospel/philosophy is basically the same, with spiritual abuse following. For several months, many have been encouraging me to focus more on the tyranny than dissecting the theology, and I am listening. Doctrine aside, New Calvinism is old Calvinism, and G3 is Geneva 3.
All three of these men proudly proclaim themselves to be Calvinists, and well they should. American jurisprudence is the only thing that limits their persecution of dissenters to bogus church discipline, character assassination, and misogynism. Jesus himself said that the student is like the teacher. As the despotic spirit of Calvin continues to manifest more and more as these groups consolidate resources, the fact that they would utilize the sword of government to control the masses is evident. They barely stop short of it now, using the government courts to sue bloggers, and holding members hostage under threat of being declared damned if they walk away from hybrid systems that combine counseling and church discipline.
In at least one case that I know of, a pastor who left Paul Washer’s ministry for doctrinal reasons was literally stalked for months, including elders who harassed the man’s wife at her workplace. Baucham’s “accountability” system at his church is a copy of the system that Calvin’s doctrine police used in Geneva—complete with yearly in-home inspections by elders. Many New Calvinist mega-churches now have their own in-house security teams that are practically full blown police stations. MacArthur’s church would be one good example of this. Accounts of MacArthur’s use of this security team to escort unwelcome dissenters off GCC property, and in some cases to their cars, is lengthy. There are even claims that this security team has apprehended people, and taken them into the church where they were confronted by GCC elders. As a former rabid respecter of John MacArthur, I have found reports of his heavy handed leadership style hard to accept; nevertheless, this is part of the Calvin motif.
They claim to be Calvinists while excusing Calvin’s murderous behavior because he supposedly lived in times when going Old Testament on people was socially acceptable, while on the other hand, claiming that he was an exegetical genius. Really? While continually beating the drum of doctrine = behavior, somehow, that doesn’t apply to their daddy, and “A tree is known by its fruit” must be read in its “gospel context” lest we think that it might apply to the enlightened Calvin as well.
Rather than replaying much of the sordid details of Calvin’s atrocities against those who disagreed with him, Martin Luther summed it up best:
Martin Luther said of Calvin’s actions in Geneva, “With a death sentence they solve all argumentation” (Juergan L. Neve, A History of Christian Thought, vol. I, p. 285).
In fact, Calvin had a word for anybody who dared to object to him having “heretics” put to death:
Whoever shall now contend that it is unjust to put heretics and blasphemers to death will knowingly and willingly incur their very guilt. This is not laid down on human authority; it is God who speaks and prescribes a perpetual rule for his Church. It is not in vain that he banishes all those human affections which soften our hearts; that he commands paternal love and all the benevolent feelings between brothers, relations, and friends to cease; in a word, that he almost deprives men of their nature in order that nothing may hinder their holy zeal. Why is so implacable a severity exacted but that we may know that God is defrauded of his honour, unless the piety that is due to him be preferred to all human duties, and that when his glory is to be asserted, humanity must be almost obliterated from our memories? Many people have accused me of such ferocious cruelty that I would like to kill again the man I have destroyed. Not only am I indifferent to their comments, but I rejoice in the fact that they spit in my face.
Ya, I want to be a Calvinist, how about you?
Observing the minutes of the Geneva counsel between 1541- 1549 also endears one to Calvin as well:
During the ravages of the pestilence in 1545 more than twenty men and women were burnt alive for witchcraft.
From 1542 to 1546 fifty-eight judgements of death and seventy-six decrees of banishment were passed.
Another, tired out on a hot summer day, went to sleep during a sermon: prison.
Another praised Castellio’s translation of the Bible: expelled from Geneva.
A couple of peasants talked about business matters on coming out of church: prison.
Two bargees had a brawl: executed.
A man who publicly protested against the reformer’s doctrine of predestination was flogged at all the crossways of the city and then expelled.
A book printer who in his cups [columns] had railed at Calvin, was sentenced to have his tongue perforated with a red-hot iron before being expelled from the city.
Jacques Gruent was racked and then executed for calling Calvin a hypocrite.
Each offence, even the most paltry, was carefully entered in the record of the Consistory, so that the private life of every citizen could unfailingly be held up against him in evidence.” (See Pike, pp. 61-63).
Sources quoted in Philip Schaff’s History of the Christian Church, vol. 8:
The death penalty against heresy, idolatry and blasphemy and barbarous customs of torture were retained. Attendance at public worship was commanded on penalty of three sols. Watchmen were appointed to see that people went to church. The members of the Consistory visited every house once a year to examine the faith and morals of the family. Every unseemly word and act on the street was reported, and the offenders were cited before the Consistory to be either censured or warned, or to be handed over to the Council for severer punishment.
Three men who laughed during a sermon were imprisoned for three days.
A girl was beheaded for striking her parents.
A banker was executed for repeated adultery.
If anybody wants details on the difference between New Calvinism and old Calvinism from a doctrinal perspective, and the supposed life application thereof—it’s a little complicated, but behavior isn’t complicated. New Calvinist hacks like Lawson, Washer, and Baucham want to separate Calvin’s tyranny from his doctrine
…lest you would think they would ever do the same thing.
The Gospel Coalition has a sub-website called the “Objective Gospel.” Sound familiar? Does it remind you of “the centrality of the objective gospel”? That was the Australian Forum’s core doctrine, and Robert Brinsmead claims that the doctrine was original with them as far as being rediscovered truth from the original Reformation.
One of the tenets of the Forum was the idea that knowledge about the gospel of justification was infinite because it is about the person of Jesus Christ and not data. By the way, this is also the position of the Emergent Church that New Calvinists pretend to be against. It starts with the objective idea that the Bible is about justification only, but then proceeds to say that knowledge of it is infinite—clearly paving the way to teach anything they want to; such as, the total depravity of the saints, the scream of the damned, repentance from good works, etc.
No, No, No, Paul Washer Doesn’t Think You’re Lost Because of That, He Thinks you’re Lost Because You’re an Evangelical
I know this is all surreal, so let’s backup and take a look at what orthodox Christians believe. In what Dr. Harold L. Wilmington called “One of the best outlined, one-volume books on theology in print,” Floyd Barackman, a Reformed Baptist, writes the following on regeneration: “This concerns our being made spiritually alive and our having a new relationship with God” (Practical Christian Theology p.315). On justification, he writes:” Justification is the act of God whereby He acquits the gospel believer of the divine verdict of condemnation and declares him to be righteous. The unsaved person’s need for justification is seen in his condemnation by God and his lack of acceptable righteousness” (p.303).
While Barackman has plenty to say in the book about election (which he strongly advocates), he states the following regarding the practical application of regeneration: “Being members of God’s family and subjects of His kingdom (Jn. 1:12; Col. 1:13), we have the duty of learning His will and truth (Eph. 5:17; Ps. 1:1-3), walking in His will and fellowship (1Jn. 1:17), depending upon His provision and care (yet, He will not do for us what we can do for ourselves, 1Pet. 5:7; Mt. 6:8, 25-34), and yielding to His discipline (Heb. 121-15).
Dr. Jay E. Adams, who has received his share of criticism over the years, but has never been accused of being unorthodox as far as I know, writes the following in his critique of Sonship theology (GS’s mother) on page 35 of Biblical Sonship regarding regeneration: “Though the Spirit produces fruit, He does it through, and not apart from, human effort (which He initiates and sustains). This is clear from the fact that Christians themselves are commanded to become involved in the ‘pursuit of fruit’—the very same fruit that is said to be the fruit of the Spirit [let me add this to Jay’s statement: one of the fruits of the Spirit is self-control]. This pursuit is real, involving biblical study and struggles with sin that issue in failures and successes.”
It is not my intention to write a book here, though one could, but I would also add some quotations from JC Ryle on this subject:
“But surely the Scriptures teach us that in following holiness the true Christian needs personal exertion and work as well as faith….in justification the word to address to man is believe–only believe; in sanctification [to set apart through regeneration] the word must be ‘watch, pray, and fight.’ What God has divided let us not mingle and confuse” (Scriptural Holiness: Introduction).
Bottom line: a colaboring with God and man in regeneration has been the orthadox view from the beginning: “….and we sent Timothy, our brother and God’s coworker in the gospel of Christ, to establish and exhort you in your faith” (1Thess. 3:2 ESV). “For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building” (1Cor. 3:9 ESV).
Now enter “New Calvinism,” driven primarily by Gospel Sanctification or Sonship theology. It teaches sanctification and regeneration by faith alone. And: holds that any belief of colaboring in regeneration is the same as colaboring in justification. Granted, working for our legal decree (justification) from God is a huge problem because in order for that to be true, God would have to agree with us that we have the same righteousness Christ has based on our own efforts. This, of course, is an absurd notion, and damning.
But let’s be clear: GS proponents believe that the orthodox view of dependant colaboring in regeneration is synonymous with a colaboring for justification which is works salvation and a false gospel. They also believe that we are regenerated by contemplating the same gospel that saved us, over, and over, again. In the same way that we were saved by faith and repentance alone, we can only be regenerated by faith and repentance alone like we were for justification. This basic belief leads to all kinds of questionable theology, like the total depravity of the saints. Think about it, if you need the gospel everyday just as much as you did when you were saved, you must be no better than you were in regard to spiritual life before salvation, right? In fact, advocates of GS often insinuate that we are resaved daily, or each time we repent. Michael Horton has said that we only receive spiritual life when we “experience the gospel afresh.” Listen to me please, this doctrine is a serious departure from orthodoxy; God’s people must arise and confront it. Again, Adams writes the following on page 36 of Biblical Sonship: “Plainly, the error of substituting justification for regeneration (quickening) is at the heart of the difficulty that Sonship [and Gospel Sanctification] presents to the Christian. It fails to explain what God has done for him in making him a new creation and how he may conform to the will of God.”
Now, regarding Paul Washer. It would seem that the main thrust of his preaching is against easy believe-ism—Christians who make a profession of faith and don’t repent of anything. It would seem as such, but that’s not true. Washer, a Baptist (Southern, I think), as I am also, doesn’t believe that even “15% of my Baptist brethren are saved.” But easy believe-ism is NOT really the issue with Washer as many suppose: his real issue echoes all the other GS advocates; their issue is the separation of justification and sanctification being a false gospel. Supposedly, that’s why the vast majority of evangelicals are lost. Hence, we have the arrogant mentality on display that men like Washer are on the cutting edge of a new, radical reformation—add nausea. This is the idea put forth by John Piper in the video, The Gospel in 6 Minutes. Not to be outdone, Washer has a video out named The Gospel in 5 Minutes. The theme of both are the same; these men are modern-day Noahians preaching doom to the masses, gag. The fact that Michael Horton’s ministry is named, “Modern Reformation” is no accident as well.
I have written extensively in order to make my case for Piper and Horton, now I will state my case for Washer. In the statement of faith posted on the Heart Cry Missionary Society website of which Washer is the director, regarding regeneration, we read the following: “Regeneration is a change of heart, wrought by the Holy Spirit, who makes alive those who are dead in trespasses and sins, enlightening their minds spiritually and savingly to understand the Word of God, and renewing their whole nature, so that they love and practice holiness. It is a work of God’s free and special grace alone.”
Note that this statement clearly says that regeneration is God’s work “alone.” Also note that the ongoing work of regeneration is for salvation: “savingly.” Furthermore, in Washer’s Gospel 101, he states the following:
“In this simple phrase, we find a truth that must be rediscovered by all of us. The Gospel is not merely an introductory message to Christianity. It is “the” message of Christianity, and it is not only the means of salvation, but also the means of continued sanctification in the life of the most mature believer.”
Uh, need I say more? Therefore, many things that Washer says that could be taken different ways must be interpreted through his theology. For instance, he says in The Gospel in 5 Minutes that Christians must continue in “faith and repentance.” If you didn’t know his theology, you would think: “Yes I agree, true Christians will continue to demonstrate the fruit of faith in God and the practice of 1John 1:9 (as well as other things that I am sure he would include, that statement is just a thumbnail sketch of perseverance).” But in fact, he is talking about faith and repentance only as a way of yielding to the Spirit for purposes of Christ obeying for us. Remember, he said regeneration is a work of God “ALONE.” Right? However, one might keep in mind that Christ clearly made a distinction between 1John 1:9 repentance and repentance unto salvation (John 13: 8-11).
Washer’s passion and his missionary works do not impress me; it is a zeal that is not according to knowledge. He plainly teaches a false doctrine and should be rejected by Christians at large.
What’s going on? Christians are becoming confused, if not frustrated. Starting with me. I finally gave in and read a John Piper book some years ago because he was, and still is, all the rave in Reformed circles. The perplexity started on page 16 of “The Pleasures of God” where he writes the following: “The worth and excellency of God’s soul is to be measured by the object of his love.” Huh? But, he loves us! Man is the measure of God’s soul?! “Certainly, I am missing something,” I thought, so I read additional books written by him. I found them nebulous, ambiguous, subjective, non-applicable to real life, grandeurus, nonsensical, to name but a few descriptors. Adding to my perplexity was the fact that John MacArthur Jr. wrote a glowing forward in one of his books.
Then Steve Camp wrote an adorable piece projecting all kinds of frustration and confusion over Piper inviting Paul David Tripp to one of his conferences. Paul Tripp behaved badly at the conference by bragging about having a “S” word contest with his children. Many also found Piper’s relationship with “Mark the cussing pastor” confusing as well. Remember the sixties song, “Buttercup”? It was about a girl that just builds you up to let you down. Could we make that work? “Johnny-cup, (Johnny-cup baby), you build me up (build me up) just to let me down (let me down), and worst of all (worst of all), we even (we even) wrote a book of essays about you (about you) Johnny-cup (Johnny-cup) baby….”
Anyway, Johnny-cup, or the first Pope of New Calvinism, further dismayed many by inviting Rick Warren to his 2010 Desiring God conference. But it gets even worse. I was recently invited to “chime in” on the recent controversy surrounding Michael Horton posing with Rick Warren in a photo op. I clicked on the link and did some snooping around. Apparently, a discernment blogger by the name of Ingrid Schlueter posted on the controversy and drew heavy fire as a result, probably along the lines of what I get for criticizing guys who know how to measure the excellency of God’s soul. How dare me. In the process, I learned a new term: “Bridger.” Apparently, it refers to someone who builds bridges between Reformed purity and others like Warren. MacArthur has a huge problem with Warren, but he loves Piper, who loves Warren, and…., uh, anyway, it would appear that Schlueter threw up her arms in disgust and canceled her discernment blog—not a good thing in our day because intestinal fortitude in regard to defending the truth is in short supply; we can make necessary adjustments later. Also, it would appear that her critics disingenuously presented her protest as her having a problem with Horton merely being photographed with Warren, but it was really much more than that. Furthermore, I perused one blog that seems to be one of her critics that also promotes Paul Washer—a GS hack. Is Ingrid another victim of the silent killer? So, here is part one of my contribution (“chime”): she needs to dust herself off and remember that those who defend the truth will always be in the minority. We don’t need fewer defenders right now.
Now about the photograph. Horton is posing with Warren who MacArthur says preaches a false gospel, but Horton and MacArthur like each other and have done at least one conference together, and Horton has also been critical of him in the past although he also admires him for many reasons (Warren, not MacArthur), and…. anyway, here is why the photo is such a big deal: Horton is not only in a frame with Warren, the photo projects—bosom buddy; long lost friend; top dawg; thinkin’ of makin’ him leader of my posse (Horton, not Warren); etc. And get this, because it’s just too rich: even though Horton has accused Warren of being an Arminian in the past, there in the picture between them, is a bust of John Calvin! Ingrid, Ingrid, Ingrid; c’mon girl, you gotta learn to laugh about it sometimes. God allows satire.
This brings me to the second tone of my chime. What’s really going on here? Answer: first gospel wave, postmodernism, second gospel wave, or Gospel Sanctification / Sonship theology. In all of the aforementioned events that I cite, folks are just spearing the symptoms. As far back as 1992, I remember a young pastor saying, “My generation is comfortable with contradictions”(if something’s good, it’s “bad” etc.). Right, that’s postmodernism. John MacArthur, who associates with those who hold to postmodern-like thinking, wrote an excellent expose on postmodernism in “The Truth War.” I recommend the book, not his friends. Confused?
Starting in the fifties, a member of the largest denomination in the world, Billy Graham, started the first gospel wave. Basically, all that mattered/matters is getting people saved. Even as a young Southern Baptist, just beginning to learn God’s word in 1983, I perceived the constant preaching of the gospel at church as antithetical to the Scriptures. A plenary gospel concern clearly replaced discipleship. This led to an all but total inability on the part of Christians to take the word of God and help people with real-life problems—which led to pastors (at least in SB circles) to farm-out counseling to schools of thought conceived by those who admitted that they hated God. When Dave Hunt shook Christianity with “The Seduction of Christianity,” decrying the integration of Psychology and Christian truth, it addressed a symptom and offered no solution, except “stop it.”
The solution came via Dr. Jay E. Adams’ biblical counseling model. I think the fact that Jay Adams is known as “the father of biblical counseling,” and his ministry started with the book “Competent to Counsel” (1972?) should make my point here: 1972 is a long way from Pentecost which demands some sort of explanation as to why anybody would be called such a thing. An experience I had recently might help to answer that question. I was at a pastor’s conference about eight months ago and witnessed the following firsthand: pastors bragging that they “didn’t allow counseling to distract them from ‘the gahhhhsssfull’” The gospel? I was an elder in a church where twelve people were saved in one year through its counseling program that was based on the biblical model propagated by Adams. When you show people that God knows what He’s talking about, they will also tend to look to Him for salvation as well. Personally, the model had radically changed my own life prior to that.
Nevertheless, this first gospel wave primed the church to fill the void (caused by a limited repertoire of spiritual weapons) with not only psychology, but postmodernism, which rejects propositional truth. The “Christian” form of postmodernism holds to something like this:
“Even some professing Christians nowadays argue along these lines: ‘If truth is personal, it cannot be propositional. If truth is embodied in the person of Christ [my emphasis], then the form of a proposition can’t possibly express authentic truth. That is why most of Scripture is told to us in narrative form-as a story-not as a set of propositions” (Page 14, “The Truth War” J. MacArthur, emphasis added).
The combination of the first wave and postmodern thought also primed the church for the second gospel wave, Gospel Sanctifcation / Sonship theology. The fist wave emphasized the gospel, or salvation, to the exclusion of sanctification. The second wave said: “Hey, not only is sanctification not important, it’s the same thing as justification” (gospel salvation). Hence, “We must preach the gospel to ourselves everyday” (Jack Miller / Jerry Bridges), and “The same gospel that saved you, also sanctifies you.” The second wave also borrowed the Christian Postmodern[ism] hermeneutic to make this approach plausable: “The Bible is about the person of Jesus Christ, it is His story, not a cognitive concept that we apply to life.” “The word of God is a person.” The GS/Sonship hermeneutic serves the same purpose as Christian Postmodernism; it’s used to put ourselves into the “gospel narrative,” ie., the Bible. In fact, Michael Horton’s teachings are often flavored with this idea of “entering the gospel drama.” Once the prism from which we interpret the Bible is narrowed to the single theme of the gospel, from there, anything goes. Open your Bible and randomly put your finger anywhere; unless it happens to be a passage that is gospel specific, and if a gospel message must be forced upon that passage, twenty different people will yield twenty different interpretations of that text. But that’s ok, because all twenty interpretations are about the gospel! Follow? You can’t go wrong if your take is “gospel centered.” Final equation: objective ideas that can be drawn from the text are OUT—the “objective” gospel that yields subjective truth about the “personhood of Christ” as opposed to what he objectively commands are IN.
Therefore, regardless of the radical results yielded by the Adams model, his objective approach drew much intense fire from a church already deeply entrenched in schools of thought hostile to propositional truth and imperative-driven behavior. I firmly believe that this simple, contemporary historical perspective forms much of the confused landscape we see today. For sure, doctrine is secondary to Gospel Sanctification. That’s why Charismatics like CJ Mahaney, a GS proponent, are welcomed into the New Calvinist camp with open arms, with many scratching their heads regarding the new label: “Reformed Charsimatic.” As far as the rest mugging together in photo ops and conferences—particular truth held by others is just simply not that important—other things are, while the confused laity are still primarily looking for leaders to stand on particular truth and shun those who don’t.
But if the laity is waiting, they better not hold their breath while doing so. And really, is a whole bunch of this really about selling books? New ideas sell books. I am reading “The Story of the Church” by Charles M. Jacobs—an oldie, but goodie. He talks about how the first century church rejected academia all together, as Jesus did to a great degree. It’s obvious that the elite, religious academians controlled the information when Jesus came onto the scene—this is a constant theme throughout the New Testament. According to Jacobs, until the second century, the educated elite were barred from eldership. Sometimes, I wonder if the laity in this country will ever tire of being led around by the nose via the who’s who of the evangelical world. But at the very least, leaders should be held to biblical standards and boycotted when they don’t measure up. As Jesus said, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees.”
And p.s.—Ingrid, pray about putting you blog back up.